PROBE

Governor Kivutha Kibwana’s administration fights off graft claims

Petitioner alleges massive graft in Makueni County

In Summary

•Corruption allegation has rocked Governor Kivutha Kibwana's Makueni County

•The county has been a symbol of hope  for residents.

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana appears before the Senate Public Accounts Committee to answer audit queries, April 16, 2018.
Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana appears before the Senate Public Accounts Committee to answer audit queries, April 16, 2018.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Makueni county has been a symbol of hope in the wake of graft and plunder of public resources in devolved units.

The Governor Kivutha Kibwana-led county has been a case study of what leadership inspired by a grassroots approach can do. The county has been a model unmatched and admired by not only its peers, but also the national government.

“I commend governor Kibwana for rolling out in Makueni its own version of subsidised healthcare and food processing plant. I urge all counties to emulate Makueni,” President Uhuru Kenyatta told the Devolution Conference in Kakamega last year.

 

Makueni has rolled out its own unique universal healthcare model and its public participation approach has ensured the views of those in the remote villages are captured to shape development in the county.

It has been a learning place for its peers. Delegations have been trooping to the county to benchmark and learn best practices to replicate back home.

In July last year, the Governor Kibwana hosted all the 46 governors and their top officials for a peer learning conference to study the county’s successful public participation approach.

Makueni has also excelled in dairy farming and milk processing. Its fruit planting and processing initiative has emancipated many from the yoke of hunger and poverty.

Kibwana’s Makueni and Francis Kimemia’s Nyandarua were the only the counties the auditor gave a clean bill of health in the 2017-18 audit reports. The auditor rendered an unqualified opinion on the financial books of the counties, an equivalent of grade A.

However, cracks have started to emerge with claims of misuse of funds that now threaten to erode the perceptions of Kenyans.

Allegations have emerged placing governor Kibwana's administration on the spot.

A dossier tabled in a Senate oversight committee by Narok Senator Ledama Olekina has questioned the execution of projects worth Sh1.4 billion.

The dossier, tabled in the Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee, outlines 12 white elephant projects where public funds could have been lost through substandard work and suspected conflict of interest.

Olekina tabled the report in Kitui where the oversight committee had convened to grill the governor over the 2017-18 financial year transactions. The governor did not turn up for meeting.

Olekina said a Makueni resident had petitioned the committee through him to investigate the alleged loss of funds.

The committee forwarded the dossier to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission for investigations.

“I am completely perplexed because I thought that for one we would be able to go through a county that appears to be clean. I am afraid that there is more than meets the eye in Makueni county,” Olekina said.

Kibwana, in a quick rejoinder, rubbished the graft claims, terming the document unsubstantiated and fictitious.

In a Facebook post, the county boss faulted committee chairman Moses Kajwang for admitting the tabling of a document whose authenticity was not verified.

“For the chair of PAC [Public Accounts Committee] to allow tabling of an unauthenticated document full of unsubstantiated and fictitious allegations and that has no author is to sacrifice the objectivity and sincerity of the respectable committee,” he said.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr said, “I had praised the county of Makueni of having unqualified opinion. Unknown to me, this appears to be a doctored report. I would rather lose a few votes but we will get to the bottom of this.”

In the dosser, the petitioner listed the Sh1 billion Kalamba Fruit plant which was initiated in 2013. Olekina said the project is a white elephant that has no value and has never benefited the people of Makueni.

“It has never produced anything for the market as it publicly purported to be. It is currently producing mineral water for an unknown water company. No revenue has ever been declared from the plant and not accessible for media and public scrutiny,” it reads.

The Sh220 million Thwake Bridge, Sh40 million Water Drilling Rig, Sh4 million Shina Foundation, Sh24 million Chullu Valley Water Project and Sh26 million Ngwitha Water Project in Kikumbulyu South and Northwards in Kibwezi are some of the projects named. 

Ledama said the Thwake Bridge was constructed by  one company which had allegedly been undertaking all major projects in the county.

Other projects are Sh26 million Masongaleni Water Project, Kathasyo Dispensary in Nguu-Musumba ward and Wote Town Water Project.